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  1. Contentious trusts and probate
  2. Leading individuals

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Freeths LLP’s workload includes Inheritance Act claims, trustee removal applications, Court of Protection disputes, farming cases and cross-border matters involving assets based abroad. High-net-worth individuals, entrepreneurs and farmers are among the firm’s clients. The ‘patient, persistent and unfailingly courteous’ Mark Keeley is a ‘top-class practitioner in the field’, who ‘sees every angle of the dispute’; he is assisting several charities with proceedings involving misconduct allegations against a solicitor with a lasting power of attorney, and managing a deadlocked unadministered estate. Rachel Gaffney is acting for the beneficiary of an estate in a matter involving assets in the UK and abroad.

‘Calm but assertive’ practice head Kevin Modiri is a key contact at Nelsons Solicitors Limited. The team specialises in contentious probate, handling claims arising under the Inheritance Act, as well as handling insolvency-related litigation and professional negligence matters. It is defending a sole beneficiary of a will in a claim brought by a family member following a long-term family dispute, and representing a deceased’s spouse in a case pertaining to a large estate. Other highlights included assisting will beneficiaries with removal of the executor and acting for the executor of an estate in a dispute filed by the deceased’s family members.

‘Standout regional firm’ Roythornes Solicitors houses an ‘excellent’ team, which assists farmers, landowners and high-net-worth individuals with a range of contentious matters such as proprietary estoppel claims and Inheritance Act disputes. Handling generational issues in historic trusts, Court of Protection matters, and disputes for vulnerable individuals, trustees and will executors are other areas of specialism. The ‘committed and practical’ Tim Russ is ‘level-headed and sensible’ and makes ‘realistic assessment of his clients’ cases’, and associate Sarah Whitehurst is an ‘experienced and empathetic solicitor, who always seeks the best results for her clients’.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP counts professionals, farmers, landowners, trustees and charities among its clients, and handles cross-border matters pertaining to multimillion-pound estates. ‘Genuine specialist’ Andrew Wilkinson ‘prevents clients from falling into various legal pitfalls’ in cases related to the Inheritance Act, challenges to wills, trusts disputes and Court of Protection work. The group handled contested applications for a statutory will and for the authorisation of substantial gifts as part of a clients’ tax planning strategy, and acted for the executors of an estate regarding the administration of a contested will.

The ‘well-respected’ team at Gateley Plc has an ‘enviable reputation and sound judgement’, particularly in complex trust and probate disputes as well as claims involving elements of professional negligence. The group acted for several estate beneficiaries in claims for the removal of a will executor due to misconduct, defended a proprietary estoppel claim and managed a restitution claim for trustees. It also represented a solicitor in a breach of trust claim and handled a dispute arising from a negligently drafted will. Practice head Chris Greenwell and senior associate Claire Herbert are recommended.

Howes Percival LLP’ team is led by Sharon Eyre, who splits her time between Leicester, Northampton and Milton Keynes. The firm acts for will beneficiaries in a range of contentious matters, such as assisting a deceased’s spouse with a contested will, and challenging a will in a case involving family farming business. Other recent work included handling complex probate proceedings pertaining to a contested handwritten will and managing a proprietary estoppel claim related to a challenged estate. Lindsey Atterbury left the firm.

Associate Jak Ward heads Smith Partnership’s practice in Derby, assisting individuals with claims arising under the Inheritance Act and the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act, as well as proving validity of wills, filing for executor removal and defending trustees against breach of trust claims. Recent work included challenging a will’s validity on the basis of a lack of testamentary capacity, coercion and undue influence, and handling a claim for the removal of a deceased’s spouse as the will’s executor filed by the beneficiaries. Simon Richardson is now a consultant.

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